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Letters / Use your second vote wisely

Our Scottish electoral system means that on the regional ballot, a vote for the Scottish Greens is likely to be about five times more effective than a vote for the SNP.

It’s not surprising that political parties want to win as much support as possible but before casting your votes, it’s worth taking some time to understand the voting system in order that your vote can be as effective as possible.

The second of the two ballots we get is for the Highlands and Islands region. Seven MSPs are elected to represent the largest region of Scotland, from Unst to the Mull of Kintyre.

In order to make Holyrood a representative parliament, the voting system penalises parties that win constituency seats, giving a comparative advantage to parties that are unrepresented by constituency MSPs.

In our region, the SNP and Lib Dems are the parties that are likely to win constituency seats, meaning that voting for them on the regional ballot is less effective, sometimes dramatically so.

This is shown in the results of the last election in 2016. Across the Highlands and Islands, the SNP won seven constituency contests and the Lib Dems won two, in Orkney and Shetland. In the regional ballot, the SNP won 81,600 votes, Tories 44,693, Lib Dems 27,223, Labour 22,894 and Greens 14,781.

Despite the SNP winning the regional contest handsomely, they returned only one MSP, the same number as the Greens, who won over five times fewer votes than them. Similarly the Lib Dems polled significantly more than Labour, yet received zero regional MSPs, compared to Labour’s two. The Conservatives won the remaining three seats.

On Thursday, it’s likely that the SNP and Lib Dems will be the only parties to win constituency elections in the Highlands and Islands once again. A vote for one of these two parties on the regional ballot is therefore unlikely to carry as much weight than a vote for the Greens, Labour or the Tories.

The seventh and final MSP from the Highlands and Islands’ region looks to be a close contest between the Greens and the Conservatives.

The Tories are feeling the pressure; last week, candidate Jamie Halcro-Johnston made a plea to voters on Facebook to vote Conservative to stem the surge of support for the Scottish Greens, who are forecast to increase their number of MSPs from six to eleven on Thursday, which would include two from the Highlands and Islands.

The pending breakdown of the earth’s climate and ecological systems puts billions of lives and livelihoods in jeopardy – and is the most important issue in this election, far more than Brexit or Scottish Independence.

Shetland can be a global leader in sustainability and a second Green MSP from the Highlands and Islands would hugely support us in this regard. We need decisive leadership – and Green MSPs already have a strong track record of constructively holding the government to account.

The most effective thing that I can do on Thursday is to vote for the Scottish Green Party on the Highlands and Islands ballot and Tom Wills for Shetland. I urge you to do the same.

Alex Armitage